Self-editing is the Achilles heel
of self-publishing.

Self-editing is important. Professional editors ensure that your writing is clear and well organized. However, the more competitive the publishing industry gets, the more professional editors expect your manuscript to be ready to go. What can you do if you don’t have the budget to hire a professional editor?

I would begin by asking my friends to be proof readers. That should catch the obvious typos and glaring errors. Check with the English Department at the local college. You may find an interested instructor or students that would work for a reasonable hourly wage.

After that, if you are left with self-editing, don't panic. There are lots of great blogs that are thriving without editors, and some of those great blogs have become great books.

Self-editing is better than no editing. Make your book the best that you can make it. If it doesn’t sell, you have saved a bundle, and if your book is a hit, you can always hire an editor and upload the improved version. That is easy to do.

I am not a professional editor. As an Instructional Systems Specialist, I assisted Chief and Senior Chief Petty Officers develop their training manuals. I have done my share of technical editing and proof reading, and I learned a lot from the editors I worked with, but I am still not a professional book editor. I can tell you what I know.

Planning Ahead

Consistency is rarely noticed, but the lack of it always is. Consistency is enhanced with the use of a template. I use and recommend the Book Design Wizard. It is a great time saver, especially if you are new to book design and page layout.

A template adds formatting to the entire document. A Word Style adds formatting to all of your paragraphs at once. Master these two elements of Word and you will be well ahead of those who don’t.

I like to use a template and styles as I write. I even use a 6 X 9 paper size that includes my final borders. Templates and styles can be added after the fact, but I like the feeling of accomplishment that working this way gives me.

Other Guidelines to Minimize

Do not use tabs to indent paragraphs. Use Paragraph Styles.

Do not use double spaces between sentences or after colons.

Do not use the Enter/Return key to end a sentence within a paragraph. Only press the Enter/Return key to end a paragraph.

Do not use double Enter/Returns between paragraphs. Use Paragraph Styles (Space After). Double Enter/Returns give you too much space.

Do not manually hyphenate words at the end of lines. Use Word's auto hyphen feature. I am so used to manually hyphenating that I have to use Search to check every hyphen to make sure it hasn't migrated to the center of the page.

Do not use three periods in a row for an ellipsis. Put a non-breaking space before, between, and after each period.

Do not use the default .5 inch indent. It is too large. Use Paragraph Style to set the indent. Check the Do Not Indent After Headings box.

Do not use the space bar to align text.

Do not indent the first line of a paragraph if you are using space between paragraphs.

Adjust Word so that double hyphens are changed to em dashes.

Adjust Word so that straight quotes and apostrophes are changed to curly quotes and curly apostrophes.

Self-Editing for Structure

Outline View is the best tool to review the organization of a non-fiction book. You must have used Heading Styles for chapter headings and each level of subheadings for Outline View to provide an outline of your book.

Non-fiction writers should also send copies of their manuscript to other experts in their field and ask for reviews. Good reviews can be used on your back cover, but greatest value is in disclosing technical flaws and problems in flow and readability.

Fiction writers should already have a Plot Outline. If you don't, develop one now, and review it carefully. Offer free copies of your book to anyone that will read your book with an eye towards flow and readability. Ask them if the storyline got bogged down anywhere.

Find and Replace

The Find and Replace feature in Word is the most powerful self-editing feature in Word. This feature allows you to change a word or phrase scattered throughout a document with one simple editing procedure, instead of having to work your way through the document looking for them.

For example, lets say that you were unaware of the differences between using a typewriter and a computer, and you put two spaces between sentences and after colons.

All you do to correct the problem, is click on Replace in the Editing group, hit the space bar twice while the cursor is in the Find What box, click in the Replace With box, hit the space bar once, and then drop down and click on the Replace All Button. All double spaces will switch to single spaces.

You can replace specific text, character formats, paragraph formats, and even text which has been formatted in a specific way, or text formatted with a style. You can even use ANSI codes to find any character in Word. If you are not familiar with the awesome power of Find and Replace, you need a little Word remedial.

If you did not follow the Guidelines to Minimize Editing above, use Word's Find and Replace feature to correct the problems.

Word's Spelling and Grammar Check

Word's Spelling and Grammar checking is another powerful tool for self-editing. Using it is a must. I find I make more and more mistakes as I get older. Word's Spelling and Grammar checking is a blessing. The Grammar part is sometimes annoying, but it is good at catching some things, such as passive voice and singular and plural mismatches. They are both indispensible to me.

I love the democracy of information the Internet brings us, and I love the democracy that modern self-publishing brings to authors. If readers get what they want out of a book, they will overlook less than perfect editing. They have been doing it for quite some time.

Important: If you are serious about editing your own books, you should read Get Your Writing Fighting Fit by Audrey Owen. She is a professional editor and has designed a seven point self-editing system especially for
self-publishers. She will teach you what to look for and how to fix it.

Get Your Writing Fighting Fit

Get access to FREE book publishing tools, resources, and a growing online community of authors. Learn how.

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